Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
August 4 to 10 (Weekly record 1-5, Season Record 30-85)
As we mentioned last week, the Detroit Tigers had a tad bit more success on the road than at home in the first-half of the 2003 season, but the road began to offer no refuge. Luckily for the Tigers, they headed home on this week 10 years ago. Unluckily for the Tigers, it was still 2003.
A “boisterous” announced attendance of 13,263 met the home team as they tangled with the first-place Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park on Aug. 5. The A’s plated five runs by the time most of them had finished their first brewski. After another loss the next night, Jeremy Bonderman edged Barry Zito in a pitcher’s duel, 3-2, to avoid the sweep and earn what would become Detroit’s only win of the homestand.
Next up, a sweep at the hands of the division rival Minnesota Twins to put an end to yet another pathetic set of games in Detroit.
Painful Game of the Week–Aug. 10: Twins at Tigers
When the Twins won this Sunday game to complete the sweep, they ran their season record against the Tigers to 11-1. Going back to 2002, it was Detroit’s 20th loss in 21 tries against the Twinkies. As embarrassing as that fact was, it was all the more frustrating since the Tigers often played well against their rivals, but nearly always came up short.
The Tigers lost 4-3 on Friday, lost in extra innings Saturday after Chris Mears and Shane Loux allowed four runs in the 10th, and lost another one-run game on Sunday when Minnesota hung four runs on Nate Cornejo in the first. The Tigers’ starter settled down and went the distance in a losing effort.
Matt Walbeck hit a two-run homer for the Tigers, and while that hit turned out to be meaningless for this game, it would become a memorable one for the journeyman catcher.
Final: Minnesota 4, Detroit 3
Lousy Player of the Week: Matt Walbeck
With Minnesota heavily featured this week, its fitting we shine the dim 2003 flashlight on Matt Walbeck, a former Twin. The catcher was on his second tour of duty in Detroit in 2003, splitting time with Brandon Inge and future-former Diamondbacks’ manager A.J. Hinch.
Walbeck was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and made his ML debut with the club in 1993. He spent three seasons in the Twin Cities from 1994 to 1996, the first two of those seasons as the starter. Dealt to the Tigers for Brent Stentz prior to 1997, he served as the backup to Raul Casanova, but posted a career-high .277 in 47 games.
For the third time in five seasons, Walbeck was traded. Following the season, Detroit sent him and Phil Nevin to Anaheim for Nick Skuse. Again, he was a team’s primary catcher for a couple seasons, before seeing limited action with the Angels in 2000. After a season in the minor leagues in the Reds and Phillies systems, he signed with the Padres before the 2002 season, and was traded back to the Tigers in March.
Detroit would turn out to be the final stop in his career. The homer Walbeck hit in the game above, off Kenny Rogers, turned out to be the final hit of his career. He struck out in his final plate appearance, in the season finale, also against Minnesota.
Immediately following retirement, Matt spent time managing in the Tigers’ system, where he was named 2007 Minor League Manager of the Year.
He currently runs a California baseball school.